Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
The world seems very different when you’re not hurtling around it, meeting connections, missing connections; when you get four or more consecutive nights in your own bed, it’s all much easier to deal with. Natalie has been away for a few days, sitting her final teaching exams in Montpellier and so, naturally, I’ve been entrusted with the early spring bloom and, my main job, separating warring cats. The goats escaped briefly, well I say escaped, I opened the gate and told them to clear off but they just kind of inched their noses out and then ran back in again.
There’s a different feeling watching Brexit from Europe. It is more relaxed here. There is a sense that the British are increasingly just winding themselves up and the rest of Europe is just waiting for that moment when someone’s head will literally explode with the self-inflicted stress of it all. The uproar this week when the Spanish apparently introduced extra rigour to the border with Gibraltar sums it up perfectly. That is what will happen people. You voted to leave Europe and increase border control, well the Spanish, who you’ve just threatened with war, HAVE. INCREASED. BORDER. CONTROL. It seems fairly obvious to me, but try explaining that to the permanently outraged and paranoid. I tried to explain to my son this week the classic joke ‘What’s the last thing that goes through a fly’s mind as it hits the windscreen?’ ‘Its bottom.’ There are an awful lot of parallels there.
And the voices get more whiny. Theresa May’s admission that ‘Freedom of Movement’ may have to continue for some time yet, as Britain re-stabilises its economy, was met with outrage by David Mellor for one. He said that as a result ‘Brexit will be the biggest betrayal in British history.’ Do you remember David Mellor? A disgraced Tory MP from the 1980s, he had to resign when he was caught disgracing the Chelsea football kit with ‘an actress’. It could be argued then that the man knows something about betrayal, though presumably freedom of movement restrictions wouldn’t apply to his own beloved Russian owned, Italian managed football club that currently has only two English-born players in the first team squad of 25.
To be fair to Theresa May she’s had bigger fish than Mellor to fry. The controversy caused by the Cadbury’s-National Trust Great British Egg Hunt not having the minimum legal number of appearances by the word ‘Easter’ on their website led to her condemning the fact that ‘faith was being airbrushed from Easter.’ Since becoming Prime Minister she has failed to condemn Michael Howard’s call for war, the attacks on an independent judiciary and Donald Trump’s immigration ban. She’s hot on the Easter Egg thing though, as ‘a vicar’s daughter and a member of the National Trust’, she’s all over that one. That she made the comments while on a state visit to Saudi Arabia, a non-democratic country we sell arms to and who regularly persecutes Christians and executes blasphemers didn’t seem to have her irony meter going loopy at all.
Every week there’s something new to be offended about; some new outrage for people to lose all reason over. Last week the Daily Express ran an April Fool’s story that was witty, self-knowing and demented at the same time. They claimed because of ‘EU transport chiefs’ that any British car licence plate which had the EU flag on it, must be changed ‘at a cost of £35’ per car. The response was predictably bonkers, ‘the EU Caliphate’ and so on, ‘who do they think they are?’ ‘Who wants their shitty flag anyway?’ I mean really, grow up. Both sides have reached such an advanced state of silent movie acting melodrama response it’s difficult not to laugh. Sir Michael Caine hailed Brexit ‘as a vote for Freedom’. What does it matter? He’s a multi-millionaire in his mid-80s, of course he voted for Brexit. I find Michael Gove’s response more unsettling, ‘I love Michael Caine.’ He said ‘to The Sun’, ‘He’s the kind of expert I like.’ That’s Michael Gove there, parodying nicely the moral slipperiness he started and that led to the judiciary receiving death threats. It really is all just a game to people like Gove isn’t it? Let’s be sensible here, it’s Michael Caine, for Heaven’s sakes, I’ll watch him in A Muppet’s Christmas Carol until the day they airbrush Christmas from all Dickens’ pastiches, I love the man. But for someone who willingly appeared in the shoddy, cheap remakes of The Italian Job, Get Carter and Sleuth, I wouldn’t look for his help in making big decisions.
Everything, and I’m sorry to say this to the easily offended by the ‘EU Caliphate’ and ‘their faceless dictators’, but everything looks more sane over here in Europe. EU President Donald Tusk was emotional and graceful when accepting the Article 50 letter, there was a genuine thanks and sadness too. Written into the EU guidelines for the Brexit negotiations is that Article 50 is ‘revocable’, so at any point the British – if they want, no pressure – can change their minds and stay. Guy Verhofstadt, a Belgian MEP and the EU’s chief negotiator, has even suggested offering UK citizens ‘personal EU membership’ after Brexit is all over, like it’s a gym or something. Details are sketchy obviously and already rabid Brexiteers are saying that’s an affront, like personal decisions should be any of their bloody business. Really, both sides, stop telling other people what to do all the time. It makes you look barking.
Hopefully of course my French citizenship will have come through by then, so I won’t need the associate member clubcard, but it’s an interesting idea. Will it allow freedom to work in other EU countries? Will the British government even recognise it? How, importantly for how the EU is perceived, will it work democratically? It’s been suggested that associate UK members would be able to vote for a ‘roving MEP’ who would then represent them in Brussels, kind of like electing a golf club secretary I suppose. But a roving MEP representing UK citizens’ interests in Europe, eh? Now you’re talking. A candidate presumably with some (basic) language skills, a practical knowledge of Europe, some experience of public speaking would be essential I guess, a passion for the overall project, a large enough wardrobe to cover the many official functions… where do I make my application?
Thanks for reading and sharing. Hopefully this will form part of my third book and be out later this year. The more sharing the more that is likely to happen, and moves are a foot…
My other books are available on Amazon, or in all good bookshops.